Story Planning

Using a Storyboard to Keep Track of the Events in Your Novel

Have you tried using a storyboard in your fiction writing? The picture above is my old writing space (which I miss terribly). In the background, on the wall, you can see a version of a storyboard. People find different ways to set theirs up, but I liked using post-it notes in numbered squares–usually about 30 of them, to depict scenes.

What Exactly IS a Storyboard?

A storyboard is a visual tool that’s used to help you plot your novel in sequence and keep the story’s timeline on course. A storyboard can be used for either a fiction novel or a non-fiction book, but for the sake of this post, I will be talking about the fiction novel, of course. Some people use an online storyboard, while other people, like me, choose to use something can physically touch and easily change things around, needed. Some people even use a whiteboard. It’s reusable, you simply wipe off the contents and get ready for your next novel. I actually use a whiteboard for my timeline and a poster-board for my scene cards, aka post-it notes.

There is no right or wrong way to create a storyboard as long as you have the information you need on the board. If you choose to create one for computer use, you can set up one in PowerPoint or Microsoft Word or you can use a pre-drawn template. An excel spreadsheet can be used, too.

Are Storyboard Templates Available Online?

Yes, you can find storyboard templates online for free. But if you want to create your own, you’ll need a sheet of poster-board, some 3 by 5 cards or some sticky notes. Sticky notes are best because they can be moved around easily, and they come in different colors if you want to color-code your scenes and/or events.

Why Would You Even Use a Storyboard?

Because, using a storyboard can help you SEE your fiction novel plot points, pinch points, inciting incident and all the other key items a story needs. Plot points are simply events within your story that move your story forward, events that cause the characters to take action or events that happen to make the character make decisions.

A storyboard also shows your overall theme, and it can show you your characters’ growth. All main characters should grow and change in some way by the events they go through.

A storyboard can also show your story’s black moment – that’s the moment when it appears all is lost. The resolution is also part of the storyboard and this shows that all of the loose ends and all of the questions in the story are answered.

A storyboard lets you see your story at a glance and helps you be able to place what’s happening in sequence. When you create your storyboard, you can divide it by chapters, and then break each chapter down into scenes.

Each chapter should be between 2-3 scenes long. Some people write out each scene on 3 by 5 cards and tape them to the poster-board, but this can damage the poster-board if you need to move things around. Others use sticky notes and put those on the poster-board. (In a pinch, you can place sticky notes directly onto the wall by your desk.)

Set Your Storyboard Up Into a 3-Act Structure

Your storyboard can be divided into three parts–to represent a 3-act structure. In the first section, or Act 1, you’ll introduce your character in his/her normal world, bring on the inciting incident and the character’s refusal to take action.

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In the second part of the storyboard should represent Act 2. This is where you introduce other characters, deepen the conflict and introduce the black moment when it appears all hope is lost.

The third part of the storyboard, or Act 3, is the resolution. In fiction or non-fiction, this is where you end with everything resolved. A storyboard helps you see your overall story and helps you keep up with all plot points and pinch points you need for your story to be complete.


All the best,

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